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Telphone Fundraising

The Telephone as a Fundraising Tool

by Carol Hess, Political Resources, Inc

To get your message to your potential voters, you, as Candidate, will have to raise money. It has been said that money is the fuel that makes the campaign engine run smoothly. The telephone is a vital medium in your quest for sufficient funds to run a successful campaign. It is personal and the response is immediate. Calls are made by the Candidate, Campaign volunteers and by Professionals Organizations.

I. THE CANDIDATE CALLS TIP: If you, the candidate, cannot make fundraising calls, you should reconsider running for office. The Candidate will be the most successful fundraiser.

One of the first jobs a candidate must tackle is to assess his/her financial strength. A list of potential donors should be compiled immediately.

Who should be included? Family Friends Business Associates Known political givers Clubs, Churches, Associations, Colleges, Fraternities

TIP: Make sure that any name on a list includes full name, address, home and business phone. Notes on each person are helpful. Nicknames should be included so that thank you notes are more personalized.

TIP: The names should be categorized as to who can be called and who must be visited personally. The candidate should indicate how much he will ask for and how much he can expect to raise.

TIP: Always ask for more than you think you will get. It is always easier to reduce the amount than to raise it. A wealthy person expects to be asked for a large sum.

The candidate should have at least a 25% success ratio.

There should be a specific time set aside each day for telephone fundraising calls. It is often recommended that a volunteer or a staff person sit with the candidate so that he/she does not procrastinate. No one likes to ask for money. It is difficult work. It often feels degrading, but if you have confidence in your candidacy that will come across in your calls. Unless the candidate is financing the campaign him or herself, making fundraising calls is essential.

What amount you ask for is also a function of the office you are running for. If you are running for City Council and your budget is $20,000, then asking for $500 from ten people, $250 from 25 people is not unreasonable. If you are running for the State Senate and your budget is $60,000, then asking for $1000 from ten people, $500 from 25 people is not unreasonable.

A first time candidate will have a harder time raising large sums of money from outside of his close circle of friends and associates.

  1. Money should be asked for early. This is usually referred to as "seed" money. As a Candidate, you will need to have "X" amount available to demonstrate the seriousness of your candidacy. 2.     The ability of the candidate to raise money is often an indication of how successful you will be as a candidate. When someone makes a contribution to you, they are demonstrating their confidence in you, as a Candidate.

Fundraising calls are made by the Finance Committee, by volunteers who follow-up an event. They can also be used to quickly raise a specific amount of money.

A. THE FINANCE COMMITTEE FUNDRAISING One of the key assets of a finance committee is the ability to tap into additional names of potential donors to then to contact them. Your finance committee should have developed a list of their personal associates and contacts. These calls should be made early in the campaign to increase the involvement The names of potential donors should be entered into the master fundraising list with full contact information and the notation as to where the name originated. Whereas the first call may soften the potential donor, additional invitations to events, newsletters and other activities will produce donations.

After the initial finance committee call, a determination should be made as to whether the candidate should follow-up with a call or whether a personal visit should be scheduled.


TIP: Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up.

Telephone follow-up to any fundraising event is critical to its success. It has been estimated that you can double your attendance by a personal calls. It can be a short call, just reminding the potential donor of the event. It shows that you really want that person to attend and it is often harder to say "no" on the phone.

If you have sent out 500 invitations to an event, your campaign may not have the ability to follow-up all of the invitations. The lists should then be divided into the "A", "B" and "C" level follow-up calls.

TIP: Follow-up calls for campaign fundraising events should begin no sooner than ten days before the event. People tend make up their minds at the last minute. People forget the date. People may have discarded the invitation as junk mail or just lost the invitation. If there is a celebrity coming, this should be part of the short telephone message. People like to be around famous and powerful people.


Raising money for a specific purpose is an excellent use of the telephone. It is most effective in the final eight weeks of the campaign. You have a specific amount of money that must be raised in a short period of time. For example, you need $2000 for a direct mail piece on a specific issue. Or, you need $1000 for a series of radio ads to counter the opponent's media blast.

First, your campaign needs phoners and drivers with cell phones. Then you need to compile your call list. This should consist of former donors or known givers to your particular cause.

You call and ask for a specific amount of money, i.e. $50.00. You call should convey urgency. "If we can raise $50.00 from 20 people tonight, we would be able to get our radio message out tomorrow. Would you be willing to contribute $50.00? " If there is hesitancy, then you can lower the asking amount to $25.00. If the person says "yes", you tell them that Susan Smith will be by in 10 minutes to pick up their check. You get your money right away. The donor will be impressed at your effective operation. The pledge is immediately converted to a donation.


The candidate can make fundraising calls; the campaign can do some event follow up phoning and the finance committee can extend the fundraising outreach. However, larger campaigns with bigger budget requirements should use a professional telemarketing organization to make fundraising calls.

If you decide to use a professional telemarketing organization, be certain to ask the hard questions

  1. Be certain to ascertain exactly how the organization will be paid. Are they paid as a percentage of the money raised? Or as a flat fee? 2.     Be certain there aren't any hidden costs. How are you charged? for phone calls made, phone calls completed? 3.     Do the callers have a regional accent? 4.     Who develops the script? 5.     Who is responsible for the lists that are called? 6.     Can they meet your time framework? 7.     What type of liaison to your staff will the telemarketing firm provide? What access will the campaign have to their staff? 8.     Make sure you have a written contract

Good luck with your campaign. For fundraising professionals, check out the Political Resources Vendor Directory of Products & Services. http://PoliticalResources.com

Carol Hess is President of Political Resources, Inc. She was a Campaign Consultant and Campaign Manager in the 1970's and early 1980's.

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